Happy hour a mixed bag

Some bars can't wait, but others say it will likely raise drink costs

Happy hour may technically be here in British Columbia, but whether that's a boon for Dawson Creek drinkers remains to be seen.

Patrons will now be allowed to buy alcohol from licensed bars and restaurants for a reduced price during certain hours, the B.C. government announced on Friday. Under current rules, any alcohol specials must be offered for the entire day.

At first, the new laws seemed like a victory for consumers, and a way for establishments to shore up business during a typically slow part of the day. But many bar owners were quick to point out that some of the new policies actually raise the minimum price of alcohol.

For example, the new rule that businesses must charge at least 25 cents per ounce of beer means a 12-ounce sleeve cannot cost less than $3.

The new minimum prices have killed the Toonie Tuesday special at Spike's Pub - where patrons could purchase a frosty beverage for $2. Staff at Spike's said its still too early to say whether they will offer after-work specials.

While dirt-cheap draft is out, some local bars and restaurants say they'll experiment with happy hour.

Rockwell's Pub plans on running a happy hour, but are still unclear on some of the rules around when discounts can be legally offered. Owner Dianne Knight said she's reached out to the province's liquor control branch, but has yet to hear back.

"They haven't given us any information, and there are so many stipulations," she said. "I'm excited about it, but tell me what I can do before I do it."

Jamie Lee Erickson, a manager at Sola's Bar and Grill, also said her establishment would likely have a happy hour soon, but "we're just not sure what we'll be doing yet.

"I lived in Alberta and happy hour was a huge thing. It might take off with some people."

But decision makers at other locally owned restaurants didn't see an advantage to offering cheaper drinks in the afternoon.

"We haven't really even reviewed it. We're not a bar, we're a restaurant," said Aaron Schindler, a manager at Fixx Urban Grill. "At the end of the day, as much as people get jovial and enjoy their evening out, I think happy hours are more to draw for a liquor clientele - but we're still a restaurant."

As for Dawson Creek's corporate-owned drinking establishments, they're still mulling whether to implement happy hour specials chain-wide.

"We have an everyday, all day drink special, but we don't have a happy hour that goes from 4 until 6," said Sasha Howell, a manager at Browns Social House. She added it would be up to their head office whether to experiment with afternoon drink specials.

Ditto for Mr. Mike's, according to Warren Goss at the restaurant's head office.

"We're going to consider it. We already have daily specials," he said, adding that minimum price rules were good for business owners.

"It makes a level playing field for everyone. There won't be bars and restaurants out there dropping their prices ridiculously low, and I think it gives everyone an opportunity to compete at the same level."

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